Archive for Environment

Agencies seek flexibility for drought response

By | March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments
Areas of Washington affected by a 2015 drought emergency declaration. (Department of Ecology)

Areas of Washington affected by a 2015 drought emergency declaration. (Department of Ecology)

Local and state agencies told a Senate committee on Tuesday that they want flexibility in responding to — and anticipating — drought conditions, which will affect several regions in Washington this year.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Olympic Peninsula, east side of the central Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and Walla Walla region after a mild winter that caused low snowpack. The melting snow helps fill the state’s water sources such as ground water and rivers in the spring and summer.

According to the governor’s office, snowpack is 7 percent of normal in the Olympic Mountains, 67 percent of normal in the Walla Walla region and ranges from 8 to 45 percent of normal across the Cascades.

While most other areas of the state won’t be hit as hard by drought conditions, the lack of water could affect the agriculture-dependent regions of Yakima, Wenatchee and Walla Walla.

The Department of Ecology also requested $9 million in drought relief, which would pay for agricultural and fisheries projects, emergency water-right permits, changes to existing water rights, and grant water-right transfers.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Water and Rural Economic Development heard an update on Tuesday from the Department of Ecology and others on the upcoming water shortage.

Sequim City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the the city would like to expand the uses of reclaimed water — which is treated sewage water — but is barred by regulations. Ritchie says possibilities for using the reclaimed water include irrigation and using it for toilet water in new construction.

“The laws and rules on what we can do with our reclaimed water are partly based on the fact that before it was purified as well as it is, it was called effluent, and most people really don’t want the effluent anywhere,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said a drought may be a good time to revisit water regulations.

The committee also heard testimony on HB 1836, which would expand the ability of the Department of Ecology and the Legislative Drought Committee to react to expected drought conditions, before the governor formally declares it.

Jennifer Holderman of the Department of Ecology said that the bill would give the department more capacity to plan ahead, including the ability to negotiate and secure access to water supplies before drought conditions, when those prices are highest.

Evan Sheffels of the Washington Farm Bureau agreed. “It would add some flexibility in the drought preparations that the department gets engaged in,” he said.

You can watch the update in the TVW archives.

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Senate, House Democratic leaders respond to MCC energy proposal

By | February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

State Democratic leaders on Thursday responded to Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen‘s new proposal to address climate change and reduce statewide carbon emissions.

Ericksen and Senate Majority Coalition members on Wednesday introduced an energy plan they say focuses on incentives over penalties. Democratic Sen. Maralyn Chase was also part of the rollout and spoke in support of the proposal, which allows utilities to meet green energy targets through alternative measures, such as installing electric car chargers.

Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson said the mostly-Republican proposal is a start. “I’m pleased as far as climate change that we are actually hearing Republicans say there may be human impacts that are affecting climate change,” Nelson said. “That’s a major step forward.”

Over in the state House, Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan said his caucus plans to push Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon reduction proposal through an environment committee next week. Inslee’s plan would set a cap on statewide emissions and require the state’s top 130 polluters to buy allowances above a certain limit. House Bill 1314, the governor’s proposal, is scheduled for a committee vote on Tuesday.

Ericksen, who chairs the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee, has said he will give Inslee’s plan a hearing in his committee if it passes off the House floor.

Although the MCC has not said whether its proposal is meant as an alternative to Inslee’s plan, Ericksen said in a statement that in the Senate “we’re about carrots, not sticks.” Instead of charging pollutors, the MCC plan would give power companies new ways to comply with voter-approved Initiative 937, which in 2006 required utilities to boost energy obtained from renewable resources.

Public utilities would be able to count as part of the initiative converting motor fleets and ferries to liquefied natural gas and creating more electric vehicle charging stations. Other bill includes tax incentives for expanding nuclear power with small modular reactors.

Senate Bill 5735 was heard Thursday in the committee, but has not been scheduled for a vote.

Senate bills offer incentives, alternatives to clean energy requirements

By | February 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, announced bills that offer incentives for energy conservation efforts.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, announced plans on Wednesday to introduce a series of bills that create incentives for energy conservation.

The central bill in the plan offers alternatives to a voter-approved initiative requiring public utilities to boost the amount of energy obtained from renewable resources. Public utilities meet the requirements put in place by Initiative 937 by purchasing power from solar and wind sources. By 2020, 15 percent of energy must be purchased from these sources, according to the initiative.

Senate Bill 5735 would allow utilities to meet the targets through alternative measures, including installing electric vehicle chargers, paying for the conversion of ferries to liquefied natural gas and purchasing renewable energy credits from others.

The plan also includes other bills: (SB 5325) offering tax incentives for the creation of small modular nuclear reactors; (SB 5426) calling for bids for the conversion of ferries from diesel to liquefied natural gas; and (SB 5114) creating tax incentives for the purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles in commercial fleets.

Ericksen announced the plan at a press conference that featured senators Curtis King, R-Yakima; Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick; Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee; Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and Maralyn Chase, D- Shoreline.

Ericksen said the plan’s main goal was to spur job creation, with reducing carbon emissions as an additional benefit. He said it was not a response to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s plan for carbon reductions, which was heard in the House last week.

“Is this a climate plan? No,” Ericksen said. “This is an energy plan for Washington state.”

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, speaks at a press conference on proposed energy conservation plans.

However, Chase disagreed, saying she backed the plan because of the energy-saving incentives it puts on the table.

“The cheapest form of energy is conservation,” she said.

Chase also said the introduction of the bills are an opening to talk about all carbon reduction options, including cap and trade and incentives for helping consumers save energy.

“It also helps out low-income people and older people who are aging in place,” she said. “It allows utilities to do things like repairing their homes and putting insulation in.”

Ericksen said that the plan allows utilities to abide by the original I-937 mandates, and that the plan offers solutions to get at energy conservation.

“With the plan we’re putting forward…  is how we deliver on that sooner, and not wait for a low-carbon fuel standard rule to get that done,” he said.

Senate Bill 5735 will be heard at the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment & Telecommunications on Thursday. (more…)

Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | January 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” It includes the public hearing on Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon pollution plan, as well as several voting measures. Plus, an effort to train more officers on how to deal with the mentally ill.

“Legislative Review” airs each night at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Categories: Environment, TVW

Inslee makes case for capital gains tax, carbon charges in 2015 State of State

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee addresses the 2015 Washington State Legislature during the State of the State address.

Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to work on a transportation package, increased funding for pre-kindergarten and a minimum wage increase in his 2015 State of the State address, framing his policy decisions as an investment in Washington’s residents.

“One path leads to an economy that works for all Washingtonians, supports thriving communities and preserves a healthy environment. The other path leads to a slow erosion of our shared prosperity, a widening gap of inequality and a deterioration of our clean air and water,” he said.

“[T]here are no better people to invest in than Washingtonians, there is no better place to invest in than Washington and there is no better time to invest than 2015,” he said.

He also spoke on his plans for education, the environment and raising taxes through his proposed capital gains tax. His remarks on the latter two issues drew a more enthusiastic response from Legislative Democrats than from Republicans, many of whom withheld applause during those sections of the speech.

Republicans also issued a perspective on this year’s session  with a statement from Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) and a press availability from several Republicans from the House and Senate sides of the Legislature.

Members of the 2015 Washington State Legislature, and members of the State Supreme Court, listen to Gov. Jay Inslee deliver the annual State of the State address.

Transportation

On transportation, Inslee said that his plan would be multimodal and include reforms and funding for “a transportation system that truly works as a system,” he said.

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Statewide recycling rates drop; new program to reduce toxic mercury in landfills

By | January 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Recycling rates in Washington dropped slightly last year, the state Department of Ecology reports.

The state is still above the national average at 49 percent of residents. It’s just a 1 percent drop between 2012 and 2013, but that’s equal to 105,000 tons of recyclables.

People in Washington are still recycling about three-and-a-half pounds per person, per day, but the department wants to bring the rate back up to more than 50 percent.

Now, the state is trying to make it easier to recycle fluorescent lights. People can recycle as many as 10 fluorescent and mercury-containing light bulbs at 130 free collection sites around the state.

Funded by a $.25 retail charge on new bulbs, the new recycling program aims to reduce the amount of toxic mercury in landfills.

Find a collection site at www.lightrecyclewa.org.

Categories: Environment

House Environment Leaders Talk About Priorities for the 2015 Legislative Session

By | December 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

Climate change legislation is just one of the many big topics Washington’s House Environment Committee will tackle during the 2015 legislative session.

Committee Chair, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D – Burien), and ranking minority member, Rep. Shelly Short (R – Addy), stopped by TVW this week to talk about that and another big priority, oil train safety.

Be sure to watch this week’s episode of The Impact.

 

 

Community struggling with PTSD, economic recovery in the wake of Oso mudslide

By | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide, people in the community continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are struggling to move forward, local officials told lawmakers Thursday.

There is also a “tenseness” because of the uncertainty of what will happen to the Stillaguamish River during the flooding season, said Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert at a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

“We have very resilient people in the community,” said Tolbert, who said the region’s next challenge is recovering economically from the disaster. A federally-funded economic review is underway, and the report should be completed early next year, she said.

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people, burying dozens of homes and part of State Route 530. The road reopened to two-way traffic in September.

The committee also heard testimony from people involved in the recovery effort at the mudslide. Retired forest service member Peter Selvig listed several problems he encountered in the days after the mudslide as he helped organize efforts on the Darrington side of the disaster.

He said he was twice denied flood lights, and he also received pushback on the number of portable toilets and body bags he ordered. Communications were focused on the Arlington side of the disaster, he said, leaving the Darrington side with minimal services.

“These are some of the confusions that just rip your gut apart thinking that this was happening and there was nobody there to respond,” Selvig told the committee.

Watch the hearing below:

Carbon task force issues report on cap-and-trade and carbon tax approaches

By | November 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee to help craft a carbon pricing policy released a report on Monday that examines both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax, although the group stopped short of making a policy recommendation.

The cap-and-trade approach sets a cap on the total amount of carbon that can be emitted during a specific time period. A fixed number of emissions “allowances” would be issued, and those allowances could be traded or auctioned off.

A carbon tax sets a price on each unit of carbon that’s emitted, with the price typically set in advance.

The task force said in its report that both strategies can “help the state build a coherent carbon emissions reduction strategy that aligns private incentives” to reach the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

However, the group cautioned that there are “substantial design challenges” in developing a policy.

Inslee talked about the report later in the day at a South Seattle community meeting about air quality.

“This morning, my task force gave me a report on a way to move forward to cap the amount of carbon and put a price for polluters to pollute our air and to me it makes sense that polluters who pollute our air ought not to be able to do that for free in unlimited quantities,” Inslee said.

“I’m excited to tell you we are going to be pursuing this in the next year in the state of Washington,” he said.

The task force wrote in the report that carbon prices should be established in a way that will “limit volatility and provide long-term certainty,” and take into consideration the impact it will have on businesses. The report also notes that the policy should “address equity and affordability concerns” for low-income and minority communities.

The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state, according to the report.

“With an explicit cost placed on carbon, the price of transportation fuel will increase,” it said.

The group recommends a comprehensive policy that addresses transportation-related issues, such as incentivizing the use of low or zero emission vehicles, expanding public transit and building alternative fuel infrastructure.

The task force concluded by saying that “certain important questions remain unanswered and further analysis will be important” to crafting a carbon pricing approach.

Read the full report here.

The 21-member group included representatives from business, labor, public health, tribal and government entities. The task force met half a dozen times throughout the year to draft the report.

The report will serve as an “important foundation” in developing a policy, Inslee wrote in a reponse letter to the report. “I understand your finding that each of the policy approaches under consideration offers strengths and weaknesses for Washington, and that market based approaches can make a unique contribution to reaching our statutory carbon emissions limits,” Inslee wrote.

Watch Monday’s carbon task force meeting below:

WSDOT update on fish passage barriers

By | June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Department of Transportation is spending $36 million on replacing fish passage barriers during the current two-year budget cycle that ends in 2015, the most it has ever devoted to the project.

But it still falls short of the estimated $310 million needed each budget cycle to meet the U.S. District Court injunction requiring the state to fix hundreds of fish-blocking culverts by 2030.

WSDOT Director of Environmental Services Megan White said Wednesday the department is working in “good faith” to meet the deadline, but an estimated $2.4 billion dollars of work remains to be done.

“Replacing culverts isn’t easy,” White said.

The average cost of replacing a culvert is $3 million, she said, although some cost upwards of $20 million. The culverts must be built to last and able to handle a significant amount of traffic, White said.

Watch an interview about the issue on “The Impact” on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 & 10 p.m. More information about the project can be found here, including WSDOT’s response to last year’s court injunction requiring the state to increase its efforts in fixing the culverts.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below: